HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Governor Signs Clean-Needle Legislation
Pubdate: Tue, 21 Sep 2004
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2004 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Ann E. Marimow, Mercury News Sacramento Bureau
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Schwarzenegger Signals Social Moderation

SACRAMENTO - California adults could be allowed to buy clean needles
from pharmacies without a prescription for the first time under a
pilot program approved Monday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Demonstrating his social moderation, the Republican governor signed
legislation that he said will "prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis
and other blood-borne diseases among injection drug users, their
sexual partners and their children."

His predecessor, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, who worried about
appearing weak on crime, vetoed two similar efforts by the bill's
author, Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose.

Schwarzenegger's signature was hailed by disease-prevention and
drug-reform advocates. Glenn Backes, health-policy director for the
national Drug Policy Alliance, commended the governor for having the
"political guts" to sign what he called the most important
AIDS-prevention legislation in state history.

"This is the AIDS policy that should have been done 20 years ago if
we were guided by science and public health," said Backes, who has
worked with Vasconcellos on the effort for three years. "But the
poisonous drug war environment made it impossible for

The bill was one of 13 Schwarzenegger signed and five he vetoed
Monday, including a package of gun-safety measures. The rookie
governor has until Sept. 30 to rule on hundreds of bills that will
further define him.

Schwarzenegger's action on the needle bill means that starting in
January pharmacists and physicians will be allowed to sell up to 10
needles or syringes to adults without a prescription. Pharmacy
participation is conditional on city and county approval.

In his veto message last year, Davis rejected a similar bill because
he said it "weakens county oversight and accountability" and
required the state to reimburse local health officials.

But the legislation Schwarzenegger signed Monday, SB 1159, requires
local approval and pharmacies to provide information about drug
treatment, disease testing and safe disposal.

California has been one of only five states that required the
prescription. Research from states without such restrictions has shown
that access to clean needles reduces infection rates without
increasing drug use or crime.

The California pilot program expires in 2010, when the Legislature
will decide whether to make it permanent.

Schwarzenegger vetoed another disease-prevention bill Monday, AB 2871,
that would have made it easier for cities and counties to participate
in needle exchange programs by eliminating some of the red tape. To
maintain such programs, local governments must now renew declarations
of public health emergencies every two to three weeks.

In his veto message for the bill by Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Santa
Rosa, Schwarzenegger said he was willing to "reconsider the concept
of this bill in the future if there are appropriate local control
measures in place."

On the gun-safety bills, the governor approved legislation, SB 1858,
to ban imitation firearms from being carried in public. He rejected
bills that would have required registration of ammunition (SB 1152)
and increased criminal penalties for unsafe storage of guns when
children can easily find them (SB 1140).

The former action hero also signed legislation, SB 231, to create a
new permit process for entertainers who want to borrow firearms for
props in movies or television shows.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake